Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Getting the Shakespearean Part Right

Getting the Shakespearean Part Right

 At his rally before the invasion of the Capitol, Trump said to his minions:

And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down–

We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol.

But then he ducked back into the White House to watch the whole thing on TV.  That’s how you know he’s Richard III and not Henry V.

Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

 I usually find myself agreeing with Glenn Greenwald, but not today.  GG has posted a heartfelt warning against overreaction to the attempted fur-and-horn putsch at the Capitol Building Wednesday.  He says the mob trampled on symbols of state power but otherwise did little of consequence, and vilifying them and their supporters will lead to repressive overreach, just like we saw after 9/11.  Cool it, says Glen.

Actually, I agree with one piece of this, the use of the “t” word, terrorism.  No the mob was not a terrorist brigade; it was mostly unarmed and did not commit mass or random violence to induce passive cowering from the rest of us.  There was minimal effort to locate and assault politicians; the intent was mostly to physically prevent the certification of the electoral college votes that would legally end any opposition to the replacement of Trump by Biden.

Tort

When Fox News and Newsmax recently accused voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems of rigging the 2020 election results, Dominion quickly and vigorously struck back at the two with a threat of civil lawsuit; a suit claiming that they, Dominion, had been harmed by the actions of Fox News and Newsmax. Consequent Dominion’s filing, Fox and Newsmax began to quickly and forthwith profusely apologize for and correct their ‘misstatements’.

For years and years, and years, tobacco companies were, with political immunity and lots of good lawyers, allowed to sicken and kill Americans by the tens of thousands with their products every year. In the mid 1990s, more than 40 states commenced litigation against the tobacco industry, seeking monetary, equitable, and injunctive relief, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Libertarian David Henderson on Trump

Yesterday, David Henderson, a libertarian economist associated with Hoover and econlib, had a post at econlib suggesting that Trump has been unfairly accused of fomenting violence.  I was going to stick a link to Henderson’s piece in the comments to my earlier post on the libertarian reaction to storming of the Capitol.  But when I looked this morning, the post was gone.  I believe this has happened before with Henderson (I am almost certain this has happened at econlib, I am not sure the author was Henderson, but I believe it was him). 

In any event, the now missing post was captured by my blog reader, and I thought I’d share Henderson’s disingenuous, obtuse, narrow, decontextualized, and legalistic defense of Donald Trump here for the record.  Libertarianism is not an abstract set of ideas that exists outside of partisan politics; libertarians are the intellectual front for the plutocratic wing of the Republican party, and they know who their coalition partners are. They don’t care.

“Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump,” Mattis wrote. “His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.”

This is from Lara Seligman, “Mattis blames Trump for inciting ‘mob rule’“, Politico, January 6, 2020.

I was playing pickleball Wednesday morning Pacific time and so I didn’t see Trump’s speech. I think I had my priorities right.

As a result, I made a mistake I make too often: I took people’s word for what Trump said.

I wonder if my Hoover colleague Jim Mattis did too.

What I’ve always liked about Ann Althouse, an emerita professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, is that she’s independent: she thinks for herself.

Professor Althouse read the whole transcript, looking for where Trump incited the crowd. She listed the 7 most violence-inciting statements in Trump’s speech. Check the list of 7 and see if you can see “incitement” or “fomenting.” Or possibly she missed something. So go to the transcript and see if you can see something important she missed.

November construction spending confirms building surge

November construction spending confirms building surge

One of my consistent themes in the past few months has been how the housing market is priming the economy for strong growth in 2021 as soon as the pandemic is brought under control. In that vein, November construction spending surged, confirming what we have already been seeing in housing permits and starts.


First of all, here are both total and residential construction spending for the past 15+ years:



Note that in raw, non-inflation-adjusted terms, both are close to their all-time highs, and definitely at 10+ year highs.

Double standards in policing

Many have noted, correctly, that there is a clear double standard in how the police treated the right-wing protesters at the Capitol on Wednesday and how they treated Black Lives Matter demonstrators this summer.  This is indeed a huge problem and I hope to comment further on it soon.  Here I simply want to point out a second double standard that has not to my knowledge received attention:  the quick, forceful response of legislators to the breakdown of law and order at the Capitol, compared to the generally dilatory efforts at police reform this summer. 

Police reform advocates should press the Democrats hard to move police reform legislation quickly in the new Congress.  As things stand now, there are two standards for police reform.  A strict no-nonsense standard applies when Congress is threatened, a second much more forgiving standard applies when ordinary black folks (and, for that matter, ordinary white folks) are threatened by poor policing.

Libertarians: Hey look, it’s Haley’s comet!

How are libertarian lovers of liberty responding to the assault on democracy and the rule of law that took place in the Capitol Wednesday?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen speaks out eloquently against Trump’s anti-democratic behavior.  Just kidding!  In a post entitled “That was then, this is now” Cowen reminds us about the terrorist attack on Congress by Puerto Rican nationalists in 1954.  But there is no analogy between a terrorist attack by a politically powerless minority (as bad as that is) and a mob attempting to subvert American democracy at the behest of a sitting President who just lost an election.  No analogy at all.

Cowen also has a post bemoaning the failure of the Capitol police to secure Congress, and a post quibbling over the correct definition of a “coup” and expressing surprise that some Capitol police officers seemed sympathetic to the protesters.  I enjoy a good debate over proper English usage as much as the next guy, but . . . No mention of Trump?  No mention of the Republicans who enable him?  No mention of the role of Fox News?  And being surprised by the behavior of the cops, what can I say?  We saw the sympathy of the police for armed right wing vigilantes this summer.

Unfit

For eight years Mitch McConnell did everything in his power to block any initiative by President Obama; no matter the cost to the nation. It simply wouldn’t do to have the Democrats governing, to have a Democrat in the White House; especially not a popular black President. He never was much on democracy. McConnell couldn’t thwart the will of the people in the 2008 presidential election, but, from the start, it was ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. Things didn’t get any better; Throughout the eight years. whenever Obama reached out his hand, McConnell spat in it.

In Obama’s last year in office, the year before Trump took-over, McConnell, single-handedly, unconstitutionally, denied him an appointment to the Supreme Court after Justice Scalia died in February of 2016. But one of many appointments denied during those last four years, this was the most egregious. One he bragged about for years.

In 2016, when the Obama Administration briefed McConnell on Russian interference in the election, McConnell threatened to accuse Obama of trying to tilt the election in Hillary Clinton’s favor if the Administration went public with the confirmed information. This after he had approved the expenditure of thousands of hours of the Senate’s time and millions of taxpayer dollars on an investigation into the Benghazi Incident, one that McConnell knew was a sham, an investigation meant to harm Clinton’s chances if she ran in 2016. Mitch could never find a good reason to do the right thing.

Impeachment now?

What about impeachment?  There is no question that Congress can impeach Trump for his role in encouraging today’s assault on Congress.  What are the arguments for and against? 

For impeachment:

There is a real possibility that Trump will do something dangerous in the final days of his presidency.

If he is impeached and convicted, he could be barred from running for President again. 

Presumably impeaching him would have some precedential / deterrent value going forward.

Against impeachment:

A politically divisive impeachment would divert attention from Trump’s now oh-so-evident wrongdoing and breath new life into the grievance narrative that motivates him and his base.  It could bolster his political support.  It could also fail.

So what to do?  Removal under the 25th amendment would avoid charges of partisanship (since it would be done by Pence and Trump’s cabinet).  It would hasten Trump’s fall from power within the GOP.  If removal under the 25th amendment is not in the cards, I think Democrats should only impeach if Republican Senators commit to removing him from office and if McConnell agrees to bring the matter to a timely vote.  Arguably, Democrats should insist that some reasonable number of Republicans (say, 50%) agree in advance to removal, to kill the partisan grievance narrative and keep the focus on Trump’s wrongdoing.  If Democrats challenge Republicans to commit to remove Trump from office and they refuse then the failure to impeach and remove would make them complicit in yesterday’s thuggish attack on democracy.  But proceeding with a doomed, democratic impeachment without Senate removal would have no precedential or deterrence value and it would be a political gift to Trump and his base.

Why resign?

Several White House aides and policymakers have resigned in the past 24 hours.  Frankly, I don’t get it. 

First, it’s way too late to salvage your reputation.  Second, at this point you can (arguably) do more to protect your reputation by saying that you are staying to prevent Trump from doing something crazy in the final days of his presidency.